Can Jaw Surgery Improve Your Sleep Apnea Symptoms?

Sleep apnea can do more than cause simple snoring. Sleep apnea can be responsible for poor sleep quality, sore throats, and even brain damage if oxygen deprivation goes on long enough. If you have tried other methods to treat your sleep apnea with insufficient results or you've been told that your jaw's alignment might be the source of your problems, you may be wondering if jaw surgery can help. Here's what you should know.

How Sleep Apnea Causes Problems

Sleep apnea typically starts when the muscles in your mouth and throat relax while you're asleep. Under normal circumstances, this doesn't cause any issues; muscles are meant to relax and recover while you're sleeping. However, if your airway is too narrow, due to an external influence like being overweight or due to a developmental problem like a poor jaw alignment, you may end up with sleep apnea symptoms. While some people find success with solutions like jaw-advancing retainers and weight loss, not everyone will find full relief from these methods, and that's where jaw surgery becomes a viable option.

How Jaw Surgery Can Help

Jaw surgery, or orthognathic surgery, is designed to treat abnormal jaw development problems, including the kind that can cause sleep apnea.

For most people who undergo orthognathic surgery, there's an issue with the way that the upper and lower jaw are aligned. If the jaw didn't grow out as far as it should, it can make it more likely for you to have sleep apnea symptoms because there is less space for the tongue and muscles to relax. Your tongue may fall backward towards your throat, partially or fully blocking your airway.

By advancing your lower or upper jaw forward (depending on your personal needs), your tongue and muscles have more space and aren't as cramped, reducing the likelihood of sleep apnea symptoms.

What To Expect

Orthognathic surgery is usually performed by dentist specialists who work on fixing alignment problems. When you visit a dentist, they will discuss your concerns. It is a good idea to bring any medical documentation you have regarding your sleep apnea.

If your dentist thinks that you have exhausted other options, they will perform a physical examination and imaging scans like X-rays to get an idea of the alignment of your jaw. From there, they can develop a plan for advancing your jaw surgically to fix the problem and widen your airway.